Acknowledging missteps that led to bail for a teenager suspected in a shooting outside Northwoods Mall last month, law enforcement agencies said they have made changes and revamped a jail database to prevent it from happening again.
Timothy Xavier McClendon, 16, was free on a bond after a cocaine-trafficking arrest earlier this year when the North Charleston Police Department jailed him on attempted murder and robbery charges in the July 28 mall incident.
Under a new state law, someone free on bail for an alleged violent crime cannot get bail for a new such charge until he faces a circuit court judge. The statute leaves it up to the arresting officers to ferret out a suspect's criminal history.
A magistrate, rather than a circuit judge, instead granted $160,000 bail for McClendon the day after his arrest because officers didn't immediately know about the old trafficking charge, Deputy Police Chief Scott Deckard said. The arrest had not been recorded on McClendon's rap sheet from the State Law Enforcement Division.
Deckard said the situation has prompted the police to look at sources of information besides SLED to find someone's criminal history. North Charleston officials had declined to explain what happened when The Post and Courier first posed questions about the issue after McClendon's bail-setting.
"There are just so many pieces of information for us to put together before the bond hearing," Deckard said. "It's just getting it all together at one time accurately. It has caused us to take some steps to make sure situations like this don't occur again."
One tool they'll have is a database at the Cannon Detention Center that raises red flags when officers search it. Under the new system, officers can find an arrestee's past charges. If the suspect had been free on an alleged violent crime, the charge would be highlighted in red.
Maj. Eric Watson of the Charleston County Sheriff's Office, which runs the jail, said the change was one solution that authorities devised in the wake of the McClendon episode.
While complying with the new law has not been a "major struggle" for deputies, Watson said the agency wanted to add an "additional level of checks and balances" so repeat offenders don't make it back to the street. Enacted in April, the law was designed to stop such defendants from getting further opportunities to commit new crimes.
"We wanted to makes changes that help officers to quickly identify certain crimes or when a certain person is out on bond," Watson said. "We're still revamping the system to make it easier."
McClendon, a resident of David Court in Ladson, eventually went before a circuit judge Aug. 15 for the hearing required by law.
Ninth Circuit Judge J.C. Nicholson ended up setting the same bail, $160,000, on the three charges that McClendon is facing.
Though he is 16, McClendon was charged as an adult, which also happened in January when he was arrested on the trafficking charge.
A 15-year-old boy was alleged to have been McClendon's accomplice in the mall shooting that wounded Davin Jerome Aiken, 20, but prosecutors have not said whether they would pursue adult charges against him. Ninth Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson and the prosecutor assigned to the case, Assistant Solicitor Culver Kidd, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Wilson had encountered problems with accused repeat violent offenders being granted bail despite the new law, she said last month. She issued memos to area police forces that clarified their responsibilities.
But why McClendon's first arrest hadn't appeared on his rap sheet boiled down to SLED guidelines, Watson said.
Jail officials are not required to send fingerprints to SLED for juveniles booked on Class E and F felonies, Watson explained. Fingerprints for juveniles arrested on Class A through D felonies must be sent to SLED, as well as those for adults arrested on any criminal charge, he said.
"Even though they might have a juvenile in custody, agencies still have resources like our jail that have vast information," Watson said. "Those backgrounds start automatically with a jail. ... It's required for a more thorough background check."
Reach Andrew Knapp at 937-5414 or twitter.com/offlede.